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Baxter-Knutson v. Brandt

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

August 3, 2015

Kathleen C. Baxter-Knutson, as trustee for the next-of-kin of Kyle Allan Baxter-Jensen, Plaintiff,
Travis Brandt, Elaine Byker, Stearns County, and John Does 1-9, Defendants.

Robert Bennett, Esq., Gaskins, Bennett, Birrell, Schupp, LLP, Minneapolis, MN, on behalf of Plaintiff.

Melissa Dosick Riethof, Esq., Meagher & Geer, PLLP, Minneapolis, MN, on behalf of Defendants Elaine Byker and John Does 7-9.


ANN D. MONTGOMERY, District Judge.


On May 20, 2015, the undersigned United States District Judge heard oral argument on Defendants Elaine Byker and John Does 7-9's (collectively, "Defendants") Motion for Summary Judgment [Docket No. 22].[1] Plaintiff Kathleen C. Baxter-Knutson ("Baxter-Knutson") opposes the Motion. For the reasons set forth below, Defendants' Motion is denied.


On November 13, 2010, Kyle Allan Baxter-Jensen ("Baxter-Jensen") was arrested for driving while intoxicated, driving after revocation, and driving without proof of insurance. Am. Compl. [Docket No. 8] ¶ 12.[2] When Baxter-Jensen arrived at the Stearns County Jail, he reported on a jail screening form that he was taking two antidepressants. Id . ¶ 14. A handwritten note was added to Baxter-Jensen's screening form that said "he would tell an ofc. if he felt like harming himself." Id . ¶ 16.

The morning of November 14, 2010, Baxter-Jensen checked out a razor from a correctional officer. Id . ¶¶ 19, 20. Approximately twenty-five minutes later, the correctional officer discovered Baxter-Jensen face down on his bunk with a large amount of blood in his cell, a serious neck wound, as well as wounds on each wrist. Id . ¶¶ 21, 23. Baxter-Jensen told responders that he wished he had not been found and that he wanted to die. Id . ¶ 25.

Baxter-Jensen was treated at St. Cloud Hospital where he received twenty-six staples and multiple sutures in his neck, as well as six sutures in his left wrist and twelve sutures in his right wrist. Id . ¶¶ 28, 30, 31. Baxter-Jensen reported to hospital personnel that his wounds were the result of a suicide attempt. Id . ¶ 32.

Baxter-Jensen returned to the Stearns County Jail that very same day. Id . ¶ 41. He told jail staff that he would not hurt himself again. Id . The following day, Baxter-Jensen completed a suicide risk assessment with a clinical social worker. Id . ¶ 44. He denied suicidal ideation and rated himself as not being a risk for further suicide attempts. Id . The social worker who administered the assessment doubted the accuracy of Baxter-Jensen's self-rating. Id . ¶ 45.

The next day, November 16, a physician conducted a mental health assessment of Baxter-Jensen. Id . ¶ 48. The assessment concluded Baxter-Jensen needed to be on "close observation" due to his depression. Id . Two days later, a correctional officer heard Baxter-Jensen tell his girlfriend that she could keep his things because he was not going to need them anymore. Id . ¶ 49. The next day, Elaine Byker, a member of the medical staff, noted that Baxter-Jensen was "upset but not suicidal" and just wanted to have his precautions changed. Id . ¶ 50.

On November 20, 2010, a Doe defendant discontinued Baxter-Jensen's "suicide risk" classification. Id . ¶ 51. Baxter-Jensen, however, remained on "close observation" and "razor watch." Id . ¶ 52. Baxter-Jensen was moved to a cell with a roommate. Id . Baxter-Jensen's roommate was not advised of the razor restriction. Id . On November 30, 2010, Baxter-Jensen's "close observation" was discontinued, though his razor restriction remained in place. Id . ¶ 55. During a phone call on December 3, 2010, Baxter-Jensen told his girlfriend, "I won't probably talk to you many more times..., " and "I just wish it could all end, you know...." Id . ¶ 58.

On December 4, 2010, at approximately 8:05 a.m., a correctional officer issued two razors to Baxter-Jensen's roommate, who brought them to his cell. Id . ¶¶ 73, 74. Shortly thereafter, Baxter-Jensen left the cell and entered the shower. Id . ¶ 76. At approximately 8:12 a.m., a correctional officer knocked on Baxter-Jensen's shower door and received a verbal response. Id . ¶ 78. An inmate knocked on Baxter-Jensen's shower door at approximately 8:20 a.m., then quickly got the correctional officer's attention. Id . ¶ 80. The correctional officer discovered Baxter-Jensen in the shower, lying face-down in a puddle of blood. Id . ¶ 81. Pieces of a disassembled razor were found on the floor of the shower, near Baxter-Jensen. Id . ¶ 82. Resuscitation attempts failed and Baxter-Jensen was pronounced dead at approximately 9:10 a.m. that same morning. Id . ¶ 88. The cause of death was a self-inflicted neck wound. Id . ¶¶ 89, 92.

On July 21, 2014, Baxter-Jensen's mother, Baxter-Knutson, was appointed trustee for the next-of-kin of Baxter-Jensen. Id . ¶ 3. On September 24, 2014, three years and 294 days after Baxter-Jensen's death, Baxter-Knutson initiated this lawsuit. Seeking recovery of damages under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, Baxter-Knutson alleges that the Defendants were deliberately indifferent to ...

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